Not Your Mothers Retail

By: dwoffice
I can feel it. I feel her cringe before I can even see the sale's person heading towards us. Her mouth begins to move at the same time as Ms. Retail zeroes in on us. It's like everything is moving in slow motion. You know those war scenes where everything slows down and all you can hear is warbled voices. And just like that, it's over. Mom has turned on her heel, and we're out of there. All I'm left to do is flash an apologetic look back towards Ms. R.

This might all sound strange, but trust me there's a reason I'm sharing this odd little anecdote. After many years in sales, several in retail, I've told this story to many people to describe my "individual customer" approach to sales.

Let me explain the war torn mall imagery from before. Every time I go to a mall with my mother, I witness these same exchanges. Retailers have taken to such an aggressive, cookie-cutter sales technique that it's hard to decipher any genuine words that may come from Ms. R's mouth.

I understand the branding campaigns that most of the large, international retailers have implemented. In theory, it makes sense that when I go into a certain store I should always have a similar experience. However, in my opinion, these plans can and do go awry far too often.

You can't tell me you don't know what I'm talking about! You walk into any of these stores and some seventeen year old Ms. or Mr. R makes a beeline for you, with a distant look on their face. Once they feel they're within earshot they give you whatever line they were given at there "start of shift" meeting. You know the drill, go in for the sale the minute the customer is two steps into the store.

Now, where does my mom fit in to all of this?

Please don't get me wrong, my mother is a truly lovely woman! She, like most people, doesn't appreciate being treated like a generic plastic person with a purse. She wants to know that someone is actually there to help her, not just to sell her something.

From the moment I was fifteen and began working in the wonderful retail industry, I started noticing things every time I would go out in public. I noticed the way I was treated in every store, every restaurant and every office I entered. I also noticed the way that other people would treat the people working in all of those places. And yes, I noticed my mom's commando like maneuvers to evade the guerilla sales pitch she knew was waiting inside her favorite shopping spots.

I still notice all of those things. I think it's essential for anyone in sales of any kind to be a constant observer of their surroundings. You can learn so much from merely being aware of what's going on around you.
So when faced with any sales situation, I always try to hit people with the unexpected. I understand that's not always the easiest thing to do. Some people have to stick to scripts. Others are really not that comfortable making "small talk." But, I've got to tell you if you're in sales for the long haul, it's an essential tool of the trade!
For example, let's say you work in one of these retailers we've been discussing. Customers are so ready to have you attack them with "We have 2 for 1." or "Did you know whatchamacallits are on sale this afternoon, how many can I get you?"

Imagine the look on their face when they walk in, and you casually approach them asking how the weather is outside or if they've ever tried the pretzels at the food court!

I know it may sound really strange, but these types of approaches work as an icebreaker. They even work on certified "retail ice queens" like my mother, who have a pre-recorded "I'm just looking" set on play the minute they walk into the mall.

Just a few unexpected words can actually open a dialogue. They can improve the customer experience by leaps and bounds. Generally, it leads to greater sales for you. And best of all, you just might go home feeling pretty good about your day!

So today, when you head in to work, think of a few new things to try and throw into your regular offer. You might be surprised what effect a little twist on your usual sales pitch might have!
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